How to make orecchiette

Learn how to make handmade orecchiette with Jun Tanaka‘s handy tips and tricks. Then turn your hard work into a creamy dish featuring mushrooms, egg yolk and tarragon with our step-by-step guide.

See Jun in action, shaping the pasta, with this handy video too.

How to make orecchiette

A bit about Jun

Born in New York and now based in London, he’s worked in some of the capital’s most illustrious kitchens, including Le Gavroche, Chez Nico, The Square and Pearl. In 2012 he achieved his dream of opening his own restaurant, The Ninth, which was awarded a Michelin star in 2017. Fans may have spotted Jun on Saturday Kitchen, Market Kitchen and MasterChef: The Professionals.

You will need…

For the orecchiette

  • 140g ‘00’ pasta flour (from large supermarkets or good delis)
  • 100g fine semolina, plus extra to dust
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

For the mushroom sauce

  • 1 banana shallot, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 125g button mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 30g dried porcini mushrooms
  • Fresh thyme sprig
  • 125ml dry white wine
  • 75ml madeira
  • 600ml good quality vegetable stock (or chicken stock for non-vegetarians)
  • 250ml double cream
  • 4 medium free-range egg yolks (see tips)
  • Knob of butter
  • 120g chestnut and oyster mushrooms, washed and quartered
  • A few fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
  • Squeeze or two lemon juice
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)

This recipe serves 4. Hands-on time 40 min, plus resting/chilling time

Make ahead: Make the pasta, cover with cling film, then chill for up to 24 hours. Make the sauce up to 48 hours ahead, cover and keep in the fridge.

Jun’s tips for success…

  • Orecchiette is a naturally vegan pasta, and it’s an easy alternative to any egg-based pasta recipe.
  • If you’re finding it hard to roll/shape the pasta, sprinkle a little semolina on the work surface – it will add some texture for the dough to stick to.
  • It takes a little while to master shaping the pasta, but it doesn’t matter if your shapes aren’t all uniform at first. The trick is to apply quite a lot of pressure as you drag the knife across the pasta.
  • When you get in the swing of it, you’ll be able to do it in one slick move: as the dough curls around the blade, slide your finger into its dome, then pick up and invert over your thumb.
  • Don’t throw away the shallot/mushroom mixture after straining
    the sauce (step 3). Keep it to serve alongside grilled steak or to stir into a creamy sauce to go with chicken.
  • You’ll have sauce left over; keep it for up to 3 days, covered in the fridge, and serve spooned over grilled meat or chicken.
  • Freeze the egg whites in a labelled food bag for up to 3 months.

Method

1. For the orecchiette, put the pasta flour, semolina and salt in a bowl, then slowly add 120ml cold water. Bring the ingredients together by hand in the bowl, then knead on the work surface for 5-10 minutes until the mix forms a smooth, firm dough. Don’t dust the work surface with flour or it will dry out the dough too much. Wrap in cling film, then rest in the fridge for 2 hours (see Make Ahead).

2. For the sauce, cook the shallot and garlic with a splash of olive oil in a medium/large wide saucepan for 3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the button mushrooms, dried porcini and thyme, then cook for a further 2 minutes.

3. Pour in the white wine and madeira, bring to the boil, then cook until nearly all the liquid has evaporated. Pour in the stock, then simmer for 15 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the double cream, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low and let the flavours infuse for 15 minutes (don’t let the sauce bubble).

Strain the sauce into a clean pan/bowl, pressing down on the veg with a wooden spoon (see tips), then add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Take the chilled pasta out of the fridge and cut into pieces roughly 50g each. Using the palm of your hands, roll each piece into long rolls, roughly 1.5cm thick. Cut each roll into rough 1cm pieces.

5. To shape the pasta, put a piece of dough in front of you with the rolled edges at the sides. Take a table/butter knife in one hand, put it onto the pasta so the edge of the blade is just on the edge of the pasta furthest away from you. Pressing down on the blade with the middle finger of your other hand, quickly and quite firmly pull the knife across the pasta towards you, so it curls around the blade of the knife.

Gently ease it away from the knife with your finger, then open it out and invert it . The shapes should look like little ears. Put on a tray dusted with semolina. Repeat until all the dough has been used up. Set aside to dry slightly.

6.Separate the eggs, but keep the yolks in halves of the cracked shells in the egg box so they stay whole and separate. Sprinkle each yolk with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside (see tips).

7. To finish the sauce, heat the butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan, add the chestnut and oyster mushrooms with a little seasoning, then cook for 2 minutes. Add about 4 ladlefuls of the strained mushroom sauce to warm (see tips).

8. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the orecchiette and cook for 4 minutes. Drain the pasta and add straight into the mushroom sauce, then simmer over a medium heat for 2 minutes to bring the sauce and pasta together. Taste and season, adding the chopped tarragon and lemon juice.

9. Divide the orecchiette among 4 bowls, then carefully put a seasoned egg yolk in the middle, sprinkle with the grated parmesan and serve.

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